Thursday, May 25, 2017

The U.S. needs a 'doctor of the soul'*

There is something about breathing the air this spring that feels different from most other springs. There seem to be forces at work that have perhaps not been working or, if they have, they have been working under the radar screen of most people. The Pope’s gift to trump of a book detailing the science of global warming and climate change, followed by trump’s “promise” to read it, is a case in point.

Similarly, the Pope’s advocacy for the poor, is precisely the opposite of the path chosen by the new U.S. president. He proposes to cut $800 Billion from Medicare, and $190 Billion from Food Stamps targeted at the poor, so that he can pass the “savings” along in a massive tax break for the rich, while increasing the pentagon budget by some  $54 Billion. What does he propose to “do” with the hungry poor?... Impose a Draft and put them in the army? Or would he rather have the weapons manufacturing sector hire them to fill the $350 billion order over the next decade in arms purchased by the Saudi’s earlier this week?

Calling his meeting with the Pope “an honour” is far shorter than listening to and integrating some of the Pope’s message into his plans. In fact, it sounds like just another ‘sop’ to that portion of his base who might be Catholic and nothing more.
So what if the stock market is riding high and rising; so what if the unemployment numbers are the lowest they have been since 2008, when Obama was elected. So what if the rhetoric coming out of the administration is filled with “making America great again”. So what if Netanyahu is a friend of trump. So what if Abbas agreed to meet him, along with some 50 leaders of Muslim majority countries. Those very leaders could have done much more to block and impede the terrorist threat over the last two or three decades. What makes anyone think they are going to start now?

The fact is the world, including increasing numbers of elected Republicans simply do not, can not trust this man. Anne Applebaum, columnist for the Washington Post, wrote a column on May 16 in which she quoted 50  senior Republican national security experts to the effect that trump is unfit for the presidency.
Here are some of their words:

In our experience, a President must be willing to listen to his advisers an department heads; must encourage consideration of conflicting views, and must acknowledge errors and learn from them. A President must be disciplined, control his emotions and act only after reflection and careful deliberation. A President must maintain cordial relationships with leaders of countries of different backgrounds and much have their respect and trust. In our judgement, Mr. Trump has none of these critical qualities. He is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood. He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate personal criticism. He has alarmed our closest allies with his erratic behaviour. All of thee are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be President and Commander-in-Chief, with command of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Not enough voters were paying attention when these words were published back in August of 2016.

The ensuing months have, however, delivered more than these words forecast. They have poisoned the atmosphere on both domestic and international fronts. Rather, the man elected president has committed the act of the poisoning. And his determination to continue to poison the water of political debate, with the cocktail bearing his name (as does everything he touches) continues to shred the American reputation around the world.

It is time to shift the “framing” of this presidential term from words like “different” and “unpredictable” and “unconventional” and “impulsive” to words like “anarchist” and “saboteur” and “political terrorist” and “public enemy”. Whether the empirical evidence rises to the level of an impeachment case against the president (and respectable political observers seriously doubt it will, given the Republican majority in both House and Senate), the public discussion has to mine words and perceptions that paint the picture of the body politic that would inevitably arouse a so-far-dormant public, after the few protests and marches shortly after the November election.
Yet, it is not only the White House that is in peril. The country is also so divided that many are wondering publicly if the chasm can or ever will be bridged. Let’s spend a few minutes looking at the national political estrangement, divorce, some might even say rupture.

The Boston Tea Party championed the refrain, “No taxation without representation!” Effectively, a similar chorus is just as applicable and relevant today, only instead of the British as overlords, this time it is Americans who have taken over the government for themselves and their friends. Only instead of an increased tax burden, this time the destitute will lose their health care, their food stamps as well as having lost their jobs and security and in many cases their homes already.

Can a rebellion erupt from a loss of what many consider a human right, rather than an imposed tax? Have we evolved to the point where the deprivation of those supports that define a healthy self-respecting culture and society can and will push the ordinary people into the streets, our of the town-hall meetings and the shouting matches (or just last night the body slams and broken glasses of The Guardian Reporter in Montana, at the hands of a congressional candidate whose election is today)?

It is as if the country has fallen on its ski hill, with one leg left uphill while the other points to the bottom, leaving a massive rupture, for which there is no  political medication or surgery. The biological analogy, however, depends on the “trunk” holding even if the legs are splayed out in the snow and ice. It seems that the “trunk” of public consciousness and body of agreed facts has so atrophied that the patient suffers from much more than a physical (political) rupture. From this side of the 49th parallel, it seems the body politic suffers from starvation of those essential ingredients that give it both substance and purpose: the truth. And without the kind of truth that preserves the “basics” like snow-plowing first before attempting to descend the mountain, like shifting weight from one foot to the other in orderly balance, like keeping the eyes on a common goal (safely reaching the bottom of the mountain), and listening to the mentors and the instructors, the weather forecasts and the hill crew for unexpected conditions, there is no way to avoid the kind of contra-positioning of one-leg up the hill and the other shooting down, and the inevitable paralysis that ensues.
Where are the ski-patrol crew whose assistance and toboggan are essential to bring this massive cadaver down the mountain. Where are the cameras and the television crews who chase after fires, car crashes and fights between politicians and reporters? Isn’t this splayed political body lying like a beached whale worthy of coverage? Or is the coverage simply too graphic for ratings, given that everyone has enough culpability and responsibility for the crash, and would merely seek cover and denial?

Oh, I forgot, this masculine body politic is paranoid at being seen as needing help, as having crashed because he would not listen to all the warning signs, and all the normal instructions, and all the normal forecasts on conditions. HE has to show everybody that, without all the prompts and the guidance and the coaching, he knows best!
So the question now is, “Is it finally time for this body politic to come to its senses, to open its ears and eyes, to take full stock of the damage it has done to its skiing career and to climb down off the mountain of its massive (and hollow) ego both in shame and in acceptance of its responsibility for having sabotage itself?

Is there a medic for the political soul, as in Frankl’s “doctor of the soul,” to help this body politic refocus with a determination to find a healthy, sustainable national purpose? That “medic” is not Robert Mueller; his task is to help diagnose some of the disease that resulted in the “splayed body” on the mountain, before the vultures descend. It is not the current leader, nor his administration, having been the latest impetus for the fall. It is not the Supreme Court, because the evidence transcends the legal parameters. It is not Dr. Phil, for his sphere of competence stretches to human relationships, without the complexity of attenuating circumstances It is not former Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke, for the rescue demands much more than fiscal and monetary balance and an interest rate policy to curb inflation or to stimulate growth.

In fact, there is a case to be made that, because so much of our respected and respectable public thought and analysis is so balkanized, and our specialists are so expert in their silo’s, and our shared grasp and comprehension of the totality of our existence, that we have lost sight of an integrated world view, including the body politic’s “wholeness” and “integrity” and “definition and purpose” enabling the ultimate parsing of the wholeness into disconnected and unrelated component parts. Seeing ourselves in this mirror, of course, reduces each of us to merely our component parts, the sum of which are far too “complicated” and thereby so troublesome that we have stopped searching for our unique, individual identity, as well as our national identity.


Now that Humpty-Dumpty has fallen off the wall (mountain) we all have a significant stake in putting “him” back together again. None of us can find either the right “expert” or “guru” or a large enough corps of experts to put this body back together. So, because we really are all in this mess together, we have to step up and protest first, and then re-calibrate and re-calculate and re-purpose our national institutions, this time with people whose careers can and will take a back seat to the national interest.

*(Pardon the mixed metaphors, please!)

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